Deploring murder of Somali radio journalist UN agency chief calls for investigation

“I condemn the murder of Rahma Abdulkadir. Her name joins a long list of journalists who have lost their lives in Somalia,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).“Media professionals must be able to work in secure conditions to fulfil their mission. Impunity for crimes against them must not be tolerated; it increases their vulnerability and compromises freedom of expression for all,” she added.Ms. Abdulkadir, 25, worked for privately-owned Abduwaq radio. She was reportedly shot and killed by unknown attackers in the capital, Mogadishu, on 24 March. The attack was condemned earlier this week by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, who called for an end to such “senseless” violence. “Somalia continues to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to operate. This negative picture needs to change,” Mr. Mahiga said, calling on the recently-formed Independent Task Force on Human Rights and law enforcement bodies to ensure that the perpetrators are brought swiftly to justice. read more

Discrimination against widows must end urges senior UN official on International Day

“On this International Widows’ Day, UN Women calls for action to end discrimination against widows so they can live in dignity and enjoy equal rights, opportunities and full participation in society,” the UN entity’s acting head and deputy executive director Lakshmi Puri said in her message for the Day. “Absent in statistics, unnoticed by researchers, neglected by national and local authorities and mostly overlooked by civil society organizations – the situation of widows is, in effect, invisible,” the UN General Assembly said in 2011 when it declared the first International Widow’s Day to be marked annually on 23 June. Women whose husbands died are at a greater risk of slipping into poverty, their economic resources often exacerbated by little or no access to credit or private property, and by illiteracy or lack of education. Millions of the world’s widows endure extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, homelessness, ill health and discrimination in law and custom. Yet widows contribute to society as mothers, caregivers and heads of households, added Ms. Puri, and their rights should be upheld by national laws and policies. These should be guided by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women which the UN General Assembly adopted in 1979, and is often described as a bill of rights for women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh ‹ › There are more widows this year than ever before, Ms. Puri said. She attributed the rise to armed conflicts, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the age difference between partners, with many girls being married off to much older men. “Young widows, who were child brides, face great risk with little protection,” the UN official said. If current child marriage rates continue, more than 140 million girls will become child brides between 2011 and 2020, according to UN Population Fund (UNFPA) figures. The annual session 2013 of the Executive Board of UN-Women is due to start next week at the UN headquarters in New York. read more

Marking World Tourism Day UN highlights role of travel sector in protecting

‹ › Credit: WTO The important relationship between recreational travel and the world’s water resources is the focus of this year’s United Nations observance of World Tourism Day, which aims to raise awareness of tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value.“World Tourism Day offers a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on water both as an asset and as a resource and on the actions needed to face up to the water challenge,” Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said in a statement on the 2013 theme, “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future.”“I urge all those involved in the tourism sector to join our global World Tourism Day campaign and continue to devise innovate solutions to ensuring tourism contributes to sustainable access to water resources worldwide,” he added.In his message on the occasion, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that unsustainable consumption and climate change were threatening global water and stressed the responsibility of the tourism industry to safeguard and intelligently manage the resource. “In this International Year of Water Cooperation, I urge tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management, and I call on individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel,” Mr. Ban said.As part of the worldwide observance of the Day, in the Maldives, a conference on tourism and water will bring together public and private sector tourism stakeholders, experts on water preservation and media experts today, according to the UNWTO. read more

More teachers – better trained and supported – needed to reach education

‹ ›“Learning is not possible without professional, well trained, well supported, accountable and valued teachers,” they stressed highlighting this year’s theme of World Teachers’ Day, “A call for teachers.”According to the UNESCO study, about 58 per cent of countries currently do not have enough teachers in classrooms to achieve universal primary education, with the problems particularly bad in Sub-Saharan Africa and Arab States where by 2030, some 4.7 million teachers and 1.9 million, respectively.This recruitment challenge was the focus of two parallel events held at UN offices the eve of World Teachers’ Day, one in Paris and another in New York, which brought together representatives of the UN, professional organizations, experts and researchers to launch a ‘Global Year of Action’ for quality education.Addressing participants at the event hosted by UNICEF in New York and organized by EI, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, cautioned that “unless we are able to hire more teachers, we will have generations of people who are unemployed and unemployable.”As the UN Special Envoy, Mr. Brown has been working with partners to galvanize support for the Global Education First Initiative, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched last September, with the aim of putting every child in school, improving the quality of learning, and fostering global citizenship. The Initiative is hosted by UNESCO.Mr. Brown said that two big changes happened in the past one to two years which make it imperative that the international community works collectively to focus on education – countries are realizing that they will not be successful unless they invest in education, and young boys and girls are standing up to demand education. “Education is not only the way to unlock individual opportunity. It is not only the only way to break the cycle of poverty. But it is also the way that individual nations can become prosperous,” Mr. Brown said, calling for mobilization of the private sector, faith groups, civil society, young people and others to pressure domestic governments into further prioritizing education. Participants also heard from Vibeke Jensen, Director of the Global Education First Initiative, who spoke on behalf of UNESCO, and stressed the importance of education in the post-2015 development agenda which was the focus of the high-level General Assembly debate which wrapped up earlier this week. The Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, is due to brief the UN General Assembly on education and the post-2015 agenda “soon”, he said in his remarks in New York.In his speech, Mr. Singh stressed the importance of education for global citizenship. He noted that it is “the fundamental right of every boy and girl as an entitlement.” Other speakers included Susan Hopgood, President of EI, who held a Maori tokotoko stick while addressing the audience to stress that she was speaking on behalf of a collective strength of 30 million educators. She noted that quality education is based on quality teaching, quality tools for teaching and learning, and quality teaching and learning environments. With that aim, technology is not a threat to future education, but a means by which teaching can be improved, she said.EI had announced last week an agreement with UN and other partners, to use technology to aid student curricula and teacher training. The announcement was made in a meeting with Mr. Ban and Mr. Brown on the sidelines of the General Assembly high-level debate.Participants also heard from Josephine Bourne, Associate Director for Education at UNICEF, who shared the UN agency’s support for the new agreement on technology. Earlier that day, Ms. Bokova and Mr. van Leeuwen had hosted a parallel event at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Princess Firyal of Jordan, and Assistant Director-General for Education, Qian Tang, were among the participants. World Teachers’ Day, held annually since 1994, commemorates the anniversary of the signing in 1966 of the UNESCO-ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers, which essentially serves as a charter of rights for teachers. The Day also celebrates the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels. Some 5.2 million teachers need to be hired worldwide to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of achieving universal primary education by 2015, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported today, in a study to coincide with the Day. That figure includes 1.58 million new recruits and 3.66 million to replace those leaving the profession.“The challenge goes beyond numbers – more teachers must mean better quality learning, through appropriate training and support,” the heads of four major UN agencies and a partner organization said in a joint message for World Teachers’ Day.“Far too often, teachers remain under-qualified and poorly paid, with low status, and excluded from education policy matters and decisions that concern and affect them,” the officials added, calling for effective international action in support of national efforts to bolster teachers and education institutions, and improve education opportunities.The joint message was issued by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova; UN International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General, Guy Ryder; UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, Helen Clark; UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, Anthony Lake; and Fred van Leeuwen, the General Secretary of Education International (EI), which represents teachers’ organizations across the globe.Fifty-seven million children of primary school age are absent from classrooms, according to UN figures. At the current rate, nearly half of those children will never enrol in school, and more than a quarter will start school late.Many of those children who do enter school are failing to learn to read and write by the time they reach fourth grade, the officials noted. read more

Turkeys new law on Internet curbs draws concern from UN rights office

Briefing journalists in Geneva, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the Office is concerned that the legislation “may lead to breaches of human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy.”Law 6518, which contains the amendments, was adopted by the Turkish parliament last week. According to news sources, there is pressure on Turkish President Abdullah Gul, a Twitter user, to not sign it.The law would also require Internet service providers to store data on web users’ activities for two years and make it available to the authorities upon request, without a judicial order.“The law as it stands appears to be incompatible with Turkey’s international human rights obligations, in particular those related to freedom of expression and the right to privacy,” Mr. Colville said. Back in May 2013, Turkey enacted Law 5651 which places broad restrictions on Internet use. Since the law came into force, approximately 37,000 websites have reportedly been denied operation by court orders and administrative blocking orders, according to OHCHR.“We call on the authorities to review laws No.5651 and 6518 to bring them in line with international human rights standards,” Mr. Colville said, “in particular the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy.”In 2010, Turkey agreed to “align all articles of the Penal Code and other laws with international standards, particularly with regard to freedom of expression,” as stipulated in its Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council.The UN General Assembly affirmed last November 2013 that people have the same rights “online” that they do “offline.” The OHCHR also reiterated its call on authorities to ensure police forces do not resort to excessive use of force and other human rights violations while discharging their duties during demonstrations. The Office originally urged authorities to exercise restraint last summer when protesters expressed their dissatisfaction with the redevelopment of the historic Taksim square, resulting in clashes with police that reportedly led to hundreds of people injured or arrested. read more

UN agency concerned about reported abuse as thousands continue to flee Myanmar

Several waves of clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, the first of which occurred in June 2012, have affected hundreds of thousands of families in the country’s western region.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than 86,000 people have left on boats since the violence began two years ago, including nearly 15,000 from January to April this year. “The majority are Rohingya, although anecdotally the proportion of Bangladeshis has grown this year,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva. Across the region, the agency continues to advocate for temporary stay arrangements for the Rohingya until the situation stabilizes sufficiently in Rakhine state for them to return. “These arrangements involve acquiring the documented right to remain in the host country for the designated period, protection against arbitrary detention, respect for family unity, guarantees of shelter as well as access to services and lawful work opportunities,” said Mr. Edwards.Some of those who have reached Thailand speak of being taken to smugglers’ camps in the jungles or hills near the Thailand-Malaysia border. There they were kept for months in overcrowded camps and sometimes even cages until their families could pay for their release, according to UNHCR. The Thai authorities have conducted several raids on these camps, rescuing hundreds of people, including some 500 Rohingya earlier this year. UNHCR is providing relief and advocating for a more clearly defined temporary protection regime during their stay in Thailand that would include, for example, access to education for the children and enhanced freedom of movement. “Most immediately, to facilitate recovery and improve conditions of stay from the current immigration detention centres, we have offered to support rehabilitation centres where families can stay together and basic community activities can be organized while longer-term solutions are sought. The most vulnerable cases are submitted for consideration by resettlement countries,” Mr. Edwards said.In Malaysia, where UNHCR has registered more than 35,000 Rohingya over the years, there have been increased reports of smuggling and trafficking from Thailand of people from Myanmar. Reliable reports indicate these groups frequently face abuse, ill-treatment, exploitation and extortion by smuggling gangs. An increasing number are in poor physical and emotional health – malnourished and unable to walk. “UNHCR is advocating for the prompt release from detention of any detained Rohingya and others of concern,” said Mr. Edwards. “We also believe that improved access to health and other support services, including lawful employment opportunities, will allow refugees to be self-reliant.” In Indonesia, the Rohingya now number more than 1,200 people. Registration numbers peaked during the second half of 2013 with 474 new arrivals after several boats arrived from Thailand; others also crossed over from Malaysia. This year the trend of arrivals has dropped to only 56 people up to May. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, which has hosted Rohingya refugees for more than two decades, there have been several positive developments in the last year. Education was extended to middle school level in the two official camps hosting more than 30,000 Rohingya refugees.“We have also enhanced efforts to address gender-based violence in the camps, including by facilitating the deployment of policewomen,” said Mr. Edwards. “In addition, the Government has also agreed to the improvement of services in the camps including shelter and livelihood opportunities.UNHCR has welcomed the Bangladeshi Government’s initiative to “list” an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 unregistered Rohingya in Bangladesh.The agency also noted that some 140,000 people remain displaced in Rakhine – the majority of them Rohingya, with smaller numbers of Rakhine, Kaman and other ethnicities. Aid workers have resumed humanitarian assistance following attacks on UN and non-governmental organization premises in Sittwe in late March. “While UNHCR remains committed to providing temporary shelters, coordinating camp management and addressing a difficult protection situation, we are wary of activities that could entrench segregation and protracted displacement. The challenge is to move from an emergency phase towards durable solutions,” Mr. Edwards stated. read more

Pork tapeworm infection among leading causes of epilepsy worldwide – UN health

WHO explained that taeniasis is the intestinal infection of the adult tapeworm and when left untreated, a more serious condition develops as larvae invade body tissues.“When larvae build up in the central nervous system, muscles, skin and eyes, it leads to neurocysticercosis – the most severe form of the disease and a common cause of seizures worldwide.”According to the UN health agency, 50 million people are affected by epilepsy and more than 80 per cent of them live in the developing world.“Thorough case finding, better diagnosis and treatment, and public health information campaigns are crucial to effectively control and break the life cycle of the parasite,” WHO said.“Neurocysticercosis is the most frequent preventable cause of epilepsy in the developing world,” WHO said. “It is a common infection of the human nervous system and a growing public health concern.” “Humans become infected after consuming undercooked food, particularly pork, or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs, or through poor hygiene practices,” it said. read more

Darfur UN humanitarian office reports mass displacement amid ongoing hostilities

In the El Fasher, Shangil Tobaya, Tawila, and Um Baru areas of North Darfur, the UN humanitarian office said it had “newly verified” the displacement of more than 18,000 people in the latest report from the beleaguered region. The news, in fact, comes amid a worsening security climate and dire humanitarian crisis across Darfur with rising hostilities between Government forces and armed movements, deadly inter-communal conflicts and a precipitous rise in criminality and banditry.According to UN estimates, the number of people displaced by conflict has increased to more than 430,000 since the beginning of 2014, with close to 300,000 remaining displaced in addition to the more than two million long-term internally displaced persons, or IDPs. At the daily briefing earlier this afternoon, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said OCHA had reported that in Um Baru over 2,200 of those displaced were sheltering beside the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) base. Moreover, a steady flow of displaced persons continues to arrive at the base seeking shelter and protection. At the same time, he said, some 200 people have also reached the UNAMID site in Sortony as they reportedly feared attacks on villages in the area. OCHA noted that access to Sortony continued to pose a challenge for humanitarians but that efforts were underway to deliver aid. Meanwhile, in Jebel Marra aid agencies were unable to reach those displaced due to ongoing hostilities and access constraints. read more

Amid uptick in Ebola cases UN agency cites challenges in reaching affected

Both WHO and UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) also noted unsafe burials of those who died from the disease posed as a challenge and that “a significant number” of individuals are still either unable or reluctant to seek treatment for Ebola, which has affected over 23,500 people and killed more than 9,500 mainly in the Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.In its latest update issued Wednesday afternoon, WHO reported that new cases in Guinea continued to arise from “unknown chains of transmission” and that transmission remained “widespread in Sierra Leone” but transmission continued at very low levels in Liberia, with 1 new confirmed case reported in the 7 days to 22 February associated with a known chain of transmission.“Engaging effectively with communities remains a challenge in several geographical areas,” WHO said in its most recent updateNearly one-third of prefectures in Guinea reported at least one security incident in the week to 22 February, often as a result of rumours and misinformation linking response efforts with the spread of EVD [Ebola Virus Disease], according to WHO.The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, last week told the UN General Assembly that the final phase of “getting to zero” cases may well be the hardest, saying the hunt to track down the virus is “like looking for needles in haystacks.” Dr. Nabarro told reports that having strong surveillance capabilities on the ground to identify people with Ebola, to confirm diagnosis, to quickly arrangement arrange effective treatment, to identify people that are their contacts and to keep those people under review for 21 days “is a really difficult task.”UNMEER also reported today that border between Guinea and Liberia reopened to the public on Wednesday after months of closure. read more

UN envoy to kickoff Syria talks in Geneva next week

In a note to correspondents issued this morning, the UN spokesperson confirmed that Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura had invited “as many of the parties as possible” to the Geneva Consultations on Syria scheduled to begin on 4 May at UN Headquarters in Geneva and expected to last for an initial period of five to six weeks. The meetings, the noted added, would serve to facilitate discussion on the “dire situation” in Syria today and provide a forum for all parties to deliver their “candid views on where we stand vis-a-vis implementation of the Geneva Communiqué almost three years since it was adopted.” According to the UN spokesperson, the Special Envoy and the Deputy Special Envoy, Ramzy Ezzeldine Ramzy, will conduct closed and separate consultations with each party. read more